Weekday Gospel Reflection

Monday in the Twenty Third Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 6:1-11 - World English Bible

1 Now on the second Sabbath after the first, Jesus was going through the grain fields. His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate, rubbing them in their hands. 2 But some of the Pharisees said to them, "Why do you do that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day?"

3 Jesus, answering them, said, "Haven't you read what David did when he was hungry, he, and those who were with him; 4 how he entered into God's house, and took and ate the show bread, and gave also to those who were with him, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests alone?" 5 He said to them, "The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath."

6 It also happened on another Sabbath that he entered into the synagogue and taught. There was a man there, and his right hand was withered. 7 The scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against him. 8 But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Rise up, and stand in the middle." He arose and stood. 9 Then Jesus said to them, "I will ask you something: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do harm? To save a life, or to kill?" 10 He looked around at them all, and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did, and his hand was restored as sound as the other. 11 But they were filled with rage, and talked with one another about what they might do to Jesus.

These verses from Luke form a set of Sabbath controversies. We've discussed 6:1-5 already and concluded that Jesus asserted status as the correct interpreter of the Law. In 6:6-11, he extended that theme into the realm of healing.

The Pharisees objected on the same grounds as before; they restricted the activity on the Sabbath they considered "work." In 6:1, the disciples plucked wheat and rubbed it with their hands to separate the chaff from the grain so they could eat it. Now, the Master himself healed in 6:10. In the earlier controversy, the objection was explicit; now it was implicit. That did not stop Jesus from exposing their thinking to make his point. YHWH created the Sabbath for the good of humanity, not to enslave his people. "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or harm? To save a life or to kill?" Obviously, he chose life. In doing so, he reasserted his place as "lord of the Sabbath."

This enraged his opponents, but the controversies overshadow the underlying theme, rivalry. Luke placed three fights between Jesus and his opponents back to back: 1) the subject of fasting (5:33-39), 2) plucking of grain (6:1-5) and 3) healing on the Sabbath (6:6-11). The author began with practice, then questions on the Law. While the plucking of grain could be questioned, healing on the Sabbath had no restriction; in the minds of the Pharisees, it might have violated the spirit of the Law on the subject of work, but did not break the letter, even remotely. Luke arranged this trio of debates in order to heighten the tension between the Pharisees and the followers of Jesus; he also implicitly pointed out the superiority of Jesus' interpretation of the Law over that of his opponents.

How do you help people on the Sabbath?

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Tuesday in the Twenty Third Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 6:12-19 - World English Bible

12 In these days, Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he continued all night in prayer to God. 13 When it was day, he called his disciples, and from them he chose twelve, whom he also named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he also named Peter; Andrew, his brother; James; John; Philip; Bartholomew; 15 Matthew; Thomas; James, the son of Alphaeus; Simon, who was called the Zealot; 16 Judas the son of James; and Judas Iscariot, who also became a traitor. 17 He came down with them, and stood on a level place, with a crowd of his disciples, and a great number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; 18 as well as those who were troubled by unclean spirits, and they were being healed. 19 All the multitude sought to touch him, for power came out of him and healed them all.

Luke portrayed Jesus as a man of prayer (see 1:13; 2:37; 3:21; 5:16; 6:12, 28; 9:18; 11:1-2; 18:1; 22:41, 45). The Lord prayed before many of his important decisions, especially the leaders of his new evangelizing community, the Apostles. First Luke named the four fishermen (Peter and Andrew, James and John), followed by the tax collector Matthew and Thomas, then by Simon the Zealot, preceded and succeeded by two disciples given their formal names (James bar Alphaeus and Judas bar James); as in all the other lists of apostles, Judas Iscariot was named last (as a mark of his shame). Why did the author sandwich Simon the Zealot between the son of Alphaeus and the son of James? We don't know, but we should not assume the title "Zealot" referred to the party of revolutionaries the fought for power in Jerusalem of the 60's AD. He gained the title most likely from his religious fervor, not his political leanings. There is no historical evidence the revolutionary movement existed at the time of Jesus. In other words, Simon was a hyper-observant Jew.

Jesus and his newly appointed Apostles descended the mountain. Disciples and people from near and far, both Jewish and Gentile, surrounded them, in order to hear his teaching and to seek his healing. Notice the universal desire to touch Jesus. Everyone pressed in on him. Everyone wanted to be part of his movement. Such was the appeal of Jesus that Luke painted in his gospel.

How does Jesus appeal to everyone today? How can you encourage that appeal?

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Wednesday in the Twenty Third Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 6:20-26 - World English Bible

20 Jesus lifted up his eyes to his disciples, and said,

"Blessed are you who are poor,
God's Kingdom is yours.

21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be filled.

Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

22 Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake.

23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for their fathers did the same thing to the prophets.

24 "But woe to you who are rich!
For you have received your consolation.

25 Woe to you, you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.

Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.

26 Woe, when men speak well of you,
for their fathers did the same thing to the false prophets."

After Jesus called his apostles in Luke, a crowd gathered to hear his teaching and to receive his healing power. In this context, he taught his disciples what it meant to follow him. Unlike the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12, the author presented Jesus speaking in parallels: four blessings vs. four woes. The Lord called the poor favored by God, while he warned the rich. God would bless the poor with the Kingdom (6:20) while the rich already possessed their reward (6:24). He would console the poor who lacked food and mourned through life's tragedies (6:20) while warning those who had plenty and who laughed (6:25); in the Kingdom, he would invert the fate of those two groups. God would bless the missionary who endured hatred and persecution for the sake of the Son of Man; they had the same standing at the revered prophets (6:22-23). The rich who sought reputation should beware; people gave such praise to the false prophets (6:26).

Notice the tension anticipation Luke placed between the poor and the rich. The poor hungered for the Kingdom, while the rich (mistakenly) thought they enjoyed the blessings of the God in the present. In his sly way, Luke warned his readers against either coveting such blessings of the rich or assuming God's favor only in the present. Instead, he pointed his audience to the activity of God in the future. This life might be good, but the Kingdom would be so much better.

How do you look forward to the coming of the Christ in glory?

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Thursday in the Twenty Third Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 6:27-38 - World English Bible

Jesus told his disciples

27 "But I tell you who hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. 29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer also the other; and from him who takes away your cloak, don't withhold your coat also. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and don't ask him who takes away your goods to give them back again.

31 "As you would like people to do to you, do exactly so to them. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.

36 "Therefore be merciful,
even as your Father is also merciful.

37 Don't judge,
and you won't be judged.

Don't condemn,
and you won't be condemned.

Set free,
and you will be set free.

38 "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you."

In Luke's version of the Beatitudes (6:20-26), Jesus praised his followers by comparing them (the "blessed") with the rich (those who received "woes"). Now, he would define discipleship. He taught his followers to treat others, even enemies, as if they were family. Pray for enemies, bless those who curse you, give the cheek and the tunic to those who bully you, loan to those who demand from you. Notice he mentioned these imperatives twice in 6:27-30 and in 6:35a, thus heightening the Golden Rule in 6:31, but qualifying that rule in 6:32-34. Yes, treat others like family (and like the self), but without limitations. To love others who love you gained nothing for, implicitly, no one was evangelized. After all, sinners did the same.

Love others the way God loved you. Indeed, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ ruled kindly over all people, saint and sinner alike. Act with mercy and without criticism. Set others free with forgiveness. The reward of such behavior was like the grain allotment after a bountiful harvest. The recipient would make a fold in his tunic and the rationing agent would pour the allotment into the fold but, this time, the ration would overflow. If one gave generously, they would receive generously.

How do you ration your time and wealth with others? How do you treat others with kindness?

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Friday in the Twenty Third Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 6 :39-42 - World English Bible

39 Jesus spoke a parable to them. "Can the blind guide the blind? Won't they both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck of chaff that is in your brother's eye, but don't consider the beam that is in your own eye? 42 Or how can you tell your brother, 'Brother, let me remove the speck of chaff that is in your eye,' when you yourself don't see the beam that is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck of chaff that is in your brother's eye."

Many scholars consider the parable of the Speck and the Beam a piece of caustic humor, possibly a carpenter's inside joke. Woodworking caused wood chips to fly and could land in the eye of the worker, leaving sensitive organ with discomfort. Imagine the absurdity of a plank of wood in one's eye, while trying to relieve the pain of another bothered by the splinter. Of course, Jesus told the "joke" with an ethical moral. The person should make sure of his own ethical standing before giving advice to another.

The two rhetorical questions just before the parable reinforced the notion of ethical living. A sinner (the blind) could not give moral advice to others (lead the blind) without leading into trouble (falling into the pit). A student of the Torah could not rise above the status of his teacher, otherwise he would look presumptuous and lose his standing.

These verses from Luke 6 urged the disciple to live humbly, focus on one's own behavior and give advice sparingly.

How have you removed "beams from your own eyes?"

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Saturday in the Twenty Third Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 6:43-49 - World English Bible

Jesus said to his disciples:

43 "There is no good tree that produces rotten fruit; nor again a rotten tree that produces good fruit. 44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. For people don't gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.

46 "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and don't do the things which I say? 47 Everyone who comes to me, and hears my words, and does them, I will show you who he is like. 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug and went deep, and laid a foundation on the rock. When a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it was founded on the rock. 49 But he who hears, and doesn't do, is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great."

At the end of Luke 6, Jesus continued his parables on ethical living and concluded with an admonition to his followers about living out his teachings.

Ethical living required both good intent and good behavior. An evil heart could not hide under the guise of moral action for very long; intent would become apparent. Jesus employed three parables to make that point: two fruit analogies and a treasure metaphor. Goodness did not arise out of evil.

How could the disciple insure his "goodness?" Jesus provided the answer in his construction parable. The follower who put the Lord's teachings into action was like the house builder who dug deep foundations, down to bedrock. When persecution came, the man would stand solid, unwavering like the sturdy house. The lazy, selfish disciple who ignored the Lord's teachings had no deep character and would break under pressure.

The ethical life of the disciple required consistent action and a vibrant, living faith.

How have you tried to live out the Gospel message?

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